LG G5 first impressions: a fully-loaded flagship packed with innovation

“With the G5, LG has managed to offer a flagship that’s truly more than just high-end specs”

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LG has beat Samsung to a punch… Don’t be confused, we aren’t talking about sales, but the war of smartphone flagships for the year 2016. Samsung has been unveiling its latest top tier phone(s) in the Galaxy S range at the beginning of MWC each year, setting the tone for the rest of the show. But this time around, its Korean counterpart has beaten it by taking the curtains off its latest flagship earlier. Dubbed the G5, the smartphone brings forth loaded specs, as expected of a flagship, but more than that, it also packs in some nifty features that scream innovation.

So, without further ado, let’s take a closer look at what the LG G5 brings to the table.

While LG hasn’t shied away from adding flair to its phones in terms of their design, it hasn’t brought the premium feel to its high-end offerings. Until now that is. With the G5, the company has offered an all metal body. The unibody device is quite slim at 7.7mm. The company has also managed to keep its weight in check at 159g.

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One biggest grouse users have with the metal phones is the fact that they don’t offer replaceable batteries. But LG has an intuitive solution to the same – the bottom portion can be removed to access the battery, which the brand has christened as slide-out battery. But that’s not all, while concepts like Project Ara are raising our hopes about modular smartphones for quite a while, LG has actually made it a reality with a semi-modular design. This means you can extend the functionality of the LG G5 with various accessories.

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Love taking pictures? The LG Cam Plus accessory is ideal for you. It offers dedicated camera controls along with an additional 1,200mAh battery. If you are a sucker for a high-quality audio experience, then the LG Hi-Fi is a great option. Built in partnership with audio company B&O Play, the extension comes with a 32-bit DAC  (digital-to-analog converter) and a high quality 3.5mm audio interface. Interestingly enough, this extension can be used with other smartphones or a PC as well, as a Hi-Fi DAC.

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The brand will be bringing several other slots like this, which is an interesting way to make your smartphone as versatile as possible, depending upon your requirements.

Talking about the design ethos, the phone offers a nearly bezel-less 5.3-inch display up front. Above it, the G5 has a couple of sensors, an earpiece and a secondary snapper. The bottom portion, which is removable, sports LG branding.

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The construction material isn’t the only thing that LG has rethought this year. It has also tweaked its trademark power button and volume rocker setup at the back, as the volume keys are now available on the left spine, with a button available further below, pressing which lets you remove the chin of the G5. The right edge hides an electable slot for a nano-SIM card and a microSD card. Up top lies a 3.5mm audio socket, an IR blaster and a secondary mic, whereas the base features a USB Type-C port and a speaker grille.

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The power toggle is still available at the back, but now it’s circular and also doubles up as a fingerprint reader. However, unlike many other fingerprint scanners placed on the  back of the device, the one on the G5 requires a press to authenticate and unlock. In our usage, it worked smoothly and unlocks in a jiffy.

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The device feels premium with the use of metal, although the rear panel is extremely slippery. We checked out the silver variant of the LG G5, but it’s also available in gold, pink or black options.

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Another thing that will catch your attention at the rear of the LG G5 is a pair of sensors. Instead of offering gimmicky features like refocus, the dual cameras on LG’s latest flagship lets you capture a wider area. This is possible with an 8MP camera with 135-degree lens, accompanying the primary 16MP shooter with 78-degree lens. The best part is that switching between the two modes is almost instantaneous. For shooting in dim environments, the phablet features an LED flash. Selfie addicts will love the 8-megapixel autofocus shooter at the front.

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The 5.3-inch IPS display bears a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 pixels. The screen offers stunning visuals, and impressive viewing angles. LG innovated with an always-on secondary display on the V10, but with the G5, it has gone a step ahead by incorporating this feature in the display itself. The device will show time and missed notifications on a portion of the display, even when it’s turned off. The feature is slightly different than Motorola’s Active Display feature and Google’s Ambient Display functionality in Marshmallow, but there’s no doubt that it’s very useful. The Korean brand has also promised that the always-on display option doesn’t drain the battery, using only 0.8 percent in an hour.

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During the event, LG didn’t focus much on the hardware aspect of the G5 and simply gave a passing mention, but don’t worry, the phone is a beast when it comes to core specs. Ticking under the hood is Qualcomm’s top-end Snapdragon 820 SoC, which is paired with 4 gigs of RAM. The G5 is the second device after LeEco’s Le Max Pro to come with the powerful chipset. After the poor response to Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 last year, the chipmaker has worked hard to ensure that the 820 doesn’t suffer from any heating issues or performance woes. The chipset uses company’s custom-built Kryo core which offers four 64-bit cores running at 2.2GHz. The silicon also comes with the Adreno 530 GPU, which promises to deliver superb graphics experience. During our brief time with the handset, animations worked flawlessly and navigation or switching between apps was buttery smooth. We will of course, test the performance mettle when we will review the LG G5.

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In the memory department, the LG G5 offers 32GB storage on board, which offers a little over 23GB to the end user. You can top it up further with the use of a microSD card – up to 2TB cards are supported.

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The LG G5 comes with a colourful and minimalistic UI, built on top of Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Following the footsteps of Chinese companies, the phone doesn’t have a dedicated app drawer and all the apps are available up front, in the homescreens. Bloatware is also kept to the minimum with Google’s suite of apps and a couple of titles from LG. There are some useful features such as Smart Settings, letting you automate device settings depending upon where you are or whenever earphones or if a Bluetooth device is paired with it.

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Perhaps the only thing that got us worried about the LG G5 is its battery life, as it draws juice from a 2,800mAh unit, which might be too puny to power a QHD display. However, the brand is claiming that it’ll easily last a day of use. For connectivity, the phone offers the usual suite of options – 4G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC and GPS.

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The smartphone brand is working on making an ecosystem around its latest flagship. So, apart from the modular extensions, it has also introduced a bunch of accessories called LG friends. These include a 360 VR goggles, a 360 camera, and a rolling bot among other things.

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LG’s tagline for the G5 is “life’s good when you play more” and we agree. The brand has managed to offer a flagship that’s truly more than just high-end specs. Sadly, LG hasn’t given any details regarding its pricing or availability, but has promised that it’ll be launching the G5 simultaneously across its key markets. We surely hope that India is on this list, as we can’t wait to play (pun intended) with it and its friends.